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The Challenges for Consumer Technologies in Healthcare

healthcare-consumer-technologyWhen it comes to embracing new IT, the healthcare industry is not known for its bold moves.  While the manufacturing and retail industries dove headlong into the sea of big data, healthcare has proceeded with relative caution.

It hasn’t been smooth sailing as hospitals and physicians work to implement EHRs, but in an age of consumer-driven healthcare, healthcare providers cannot stand still.

More and more, consumers are using mobile apps to simplify their lives, and hospitals, insurers and others in the healthcare industry feel increasing pressure join the wave of mHealth early adopters. But could rushing into a roll-out be as detrimental as not implementing mobile health at all?

Why IT Adoption is Hard

At the recent Stanford Medicine X Conference, a patient-centered event held to explore “the Intersection of Medicine and Emerging Technologies,” healthcare providers, tech entrepreneurs, patient advocates and patients came together to discuss how digital technology fits into the healthcare equation. Given the challenges that healthcare providers face in achieving meaningful use from existing EHRs, the prospect of having more data streams to integrate with the clinical and patient data being collected is daunting.

Robert Pearl, M.D., a keynote speaker at the MedX Conference, shared his take on technology adoption with Forbes. In a blog following the conference, Dr. Pearl suggested five reasons that healthcare isn’t quick to adopt emerging technologies.

  1. New technologies fail to address the real problem. Apps must go beyond data generation in order to be truly useful.
  2. Monetizing mHealth is difficult. As the healthcare industry moves toward value-based care, this may change, but right now, providers struggle with who will cover the cost of, or receive reimbursement for, engaging with patients using digital technologies.
  3. Physicians are reluctant to share records with patients. When a patient record existed only on paper, it made sense that the doctor kept the file. EHRs and consumer-driven healthcare are changing that scenario, but old habits die hard. 
  4. Technology takes time away from patient care. It’s true — data entry can be time-consuming, particularly for healthcare providers used to jotting indecipherable notes on a paper chart.
  5. Physicians see technology as impersonal. Where physicians see the one-on-one relationship with patients being eroded by technology, patients do not. In fact, Dr. Pearl points out, “In today’s era of consumerism, if you ask patients what they mean by personalized medical care, they’ll talk about being able to decide how, when and where they obtain information and treatment — just like they do when they travel or buy retail products and services.”

In addition, new technologies, especially those that involve sharing and storage of patient data, make hospitals nervous in light of highly-publicized data breaches. Before any new technologies are adopted, healthcare providers need to have risk assessment plans in place.

How will new mHealth technologies overcome these barriers to adoption?

Success Depends on Clinical Value and Patient Engagement

Apple is betting that its Healthkit will be a bridge. Despite a few missteps, Healthkit is now up and running, and health tech companies are racing to develop apps that integrate with the personal health data hub.

The key is creating actionable data.

One tech start-up, HealthLoop, has developed an app that allows doctors to engage with patients between visits. Following joint-replacement surgery, for example, the doctor can prescribe HealthLoop to track the number of steps taken and prompt intervention if the patient isn’t getting the recommended amount of activity.

In an interview, Jordan Shlain, HealthLoop’s founder and a practicing internist, said, “HealthLoop is able to wrap these streams of biometric data with clinical context.”

UCSF and the VA Medical Center in San Francisco are conducting clinical studies using HealthKit-enabled, FDA-approved wireless blood pressure and glucose monitors, along with other tracking tools, to help patients manage chronic conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes.

Certainly, healthcare providers will be more likely to adopt technology that adds data value, not data volume, but the success of emerging mHealth solutions relies on patient adoption as well. Knowing which patients are most likely to use such tools — many of which require active participation to enter health data on a daily basis— will be critical.

Using c2b solutions proprietary healthcare consumer insights and psychographic segmentation model can help hospitals, insurers and other healthcare-related organizations more effectively target potential users of digital solutions to ensure that the mHealth rollout doesn’t fall short of expectations.

To learn how c2b solutions can help you succeed in today’s consumer-driven healthcare environment, contact us today.

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